Andrew Crofts may appear as an African dictator. Or as an 11-year-old girl sold into marriage, a Bulgarian oligarch, or a futurist who owns a Bermudan island.

Crofts is not a psychopath: He’s a ghostwriter. “I get two-three book requests every day”, says Croft, the ghost-author of 80 books and the handbook Ghostwriting. “Some have publishers, while others just decide to pay for it themselves.”

For ghostwriters, a bigger challenge than creating the book is often keeping their famous writing partners happy. For The Ghost, a ghostwriter in Roman Polanski’s new movie, The Ghost Writer, the writing partnership turns both dangerous and testy. A former British Prime Minister —Pierce Brosnan playing a thinly veiled Tony Blair — resents collaborating with the wordsmith, played by Ewan McGregor. Robert Harris wrote the book on which Polanski’s film is based; he fell out with his friend Tony Blair over the Iraq war. Prefacing each chapter of Harris’s book is a sentence from Andrew Crofts’s Ghostwriting.

Today every short-lived celebrity wants to write a book. That’s good news for ghostwriters, the often-ridiculed step-children of the literary world. Paris Hilton has penned a book about her life, as have soccer players, John F. Kennedy’s mistresses and seemingly every reality TV show contestant. Ghostwriters have even discovered an emerging niche market: Tweeting for celebrities.

“Finding a person who has had a long career but remains popular is extremely hard”, explains Rick Mayston, European Publishing Director for Getty Images. “There’s not a lot to say about a 20-year-old soccer player. There are too many celebrity autobiographies today, and publishers are often frustrated by having to publish them. But it subsidizes their more serious books.

“A good ghostwriter is almost like a psychiatrist”, Mayston says. “He or she has to get people to remember things they hadn’t thought about.”

Even though Andrew Crofts’s books have sold in over 10 million copies, most critics would never review them. “Books like mine come and go”, he says. “But people who buy them would never read serious literature anyway. Do the literary experts expect all books to be like Nabokov? In that case 95 per cent of people would never read a book.”

Ghostwriting fun
• Some of Andrew Crofts’s memories:

• “I had one author who wanted me to read the whole book out loud to him. That was very early in my career and I don’t think I would agree to such a things again now.”

• “I did a book with a hooker from the Far East where all the interviewing was done in a very overheated hotel bedroom in London and we both fell asleep on the bed with the tape recorder running.”

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